Local news

Getting There: Commuter reduction program going strong

A Washington law that requires larger employers to reduce commuter trips is 20 years old, and those involved in the program say it continues to enjoy strong public support.

In Spokane County, at least 5,000 workers are active participants in the Commute Trip Reduction program. They may be telecommuting, taking the bus, carpooling or riding bikes. Anything that cuts commute trips counts.

Employers provide incentives such as discounted monthly bus passes and guarantees that workers can get emergency rides home if necessary.

Statewide, officials said the program has reduced the number of single-occupancy commutes by 38,000 a day. That has kept streets and highways from being more crowded.

The program also benefits the environment by reducing the use of petroleum and pollution from vehicle exhaust.

The law applies to all employers with 100 or more workers in the state’s larger counties. There are about 100 employers affected by the law in Spokane County. Smaller businesses can voluntarily participate.

Participants compete for prizes including cash, trips and gift cards. Most of the funding comes from business contributions.

The program “has stayed relevant for so long” and enjoys passionate support among people who “believe in the environment,” said Ted Horobiowski, of Avista Corp.

One reason for success is the nonpunitive nature of the law, Horobiowski said. Work sites that fail to achieve reductions are not penalized, but employers have to make an effort to get workers to reduce their trips.

Currently, the law seeks to cut commuter trips by 10 percent over 2007 levels and reduce miles driven by 13 percent at affected businesses and agencies.

Horobiowski serves as the vice president of the statewide Commute Trip Reduction Board and last week received a legacy award by the state Department of Transportation for his involvement.

Several other individuals and businesses from Spokane also received awards, including Northwest Orthopaedic Specialists, where an employee earlier this year won an electric lawn mower for using commute alternatives and logging the activity on a “commute calendar.”

At Eastern Washington University, faculty and staff can take advantage of free bus passes.

At Avista, employees use a wide range of options, including telecommuting. Some employees work four 10-hour shifts, reducing their commute.

Jessie Wuerst, a communications manager for Avista, said she connects to her work site by laptop and works from home on days she doesn’t commute.

In each of the past three years, Avista participants have cut 150,000 to 160,000 commuter miles.

“Our employees do a lot of carpooling and vanpooling,” Wuerst said.

To learn more about the program in Spokane, go to mycommute.org.

Public meeting will cover Wall Street

Spokane County is considering ways to improve safety on the traffic corridor that runs down Wall Street to Waikiki and Mill roads.

Engineers will hold a public meeting Wednesday from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. at Brentwood Elementary School, 406 W. Regina Road. Engineers will offer ideas for improving safety and take comments from the public.

The corridor has seen 110 collisions in the past three years, with high numbers of crashes occurring at major intersections.

In addition, the roadway pavement is deteriorating.

Little Spokane Drive Bridge open house

Another public open house will be held Oct. 25 so county engineers can outline plans for replacing the Little Spokane Drive Bridge.

That meeting will be at the Christian Life Church, 14011 N. Little Spokane Drive from 4 to 7 p.m. It is a drop-in meeting.

Cantwell to visit employer at airport

U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., was scheduled to visit Associated Painters Inc. at Spokane International Airport on Sunday to learn more about job creation in the aviation industry.

Rod Friese, the owner, has created more than 40 new jobs in Spokane through his business of repainting airliners. He hosted Cantwell on her visit to Spokane over the weekend.

The airport is talking about working with Friese to build a second hangar for his expanding business.

The U.S. Department of Labor recently awarded Washington a $20 million grant to develop college programs to train prospective employees in the aviation industry. Spokane Community College is leading a statewide consortium offering the programs.

ISP offering Safe-driving class

A popular safe-driving class will be offered by the Idaho State Police in Coeur d’Alene on Saturday at 9 a.m.

The free class at the ISP regional office, 615 W. Wilbur Ave., begins at 9 a.m. and will cover winter driving, dealing with aggressive or impaired drivers, and other driving situations.

Reserve your spot by calling the ISP at (208) 209-8620.

I-90 restricted near Snoqualmie Pass

Interstate 90 east of Snoqualmie Pass will have only one eastbound lane open through 5 p.m. Friday as a contractor prepares to open a newly constructed segment of the freeway near Hyak. Delays are possible.

The job is part of a $551 million widening of five miles of I-90 along Keechelus Lake. Work will continue for six more years.



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